Luke 8:26:39 (CEV)
26 Jesus and his disciples sailed across Lake Galilee and came to shore near the town of Gerasa. 27 As Jesus was getting out of the boat, he was met by a man from that town. The man had demons in him. He had gone naked for a long time and no longer lived in a house, but in the graveyard.
28 The man saw Jesus and screamed. He knelt down in front of him and shouted, “Jesus, Son of God in heaven, what do you want with me? I beg you not to torture me!” 29 He said this because Jesus had already told the evil spirit to go out of him.
The man had often been attacked by the demon. And even though he had been bound with chains and leg irons and kept under guard, he smashed whatever bound him. Then the demon would force him out into lonely places.
30 Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?”
He answered, “My name is Lots.” He said this because there were ‘lots’ of demons in him. 31 They begged Jesus not to send them to the deep pit, where they would be punished.
32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. So the demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and Jesus let them go. 33 Then the demons left the man and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
34 When the men taking care of the pigs saw this, they ran to spread the news in the town and on the farms. 35 The people went out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they also found the man. The demons had gone out of him, and he was sitting there at the feet of Jesus. He had clothes on and was in his right mind. But the people were terrified.
36 Then all who had seen the man healed told about it. 37 Everyone from around Gerasa begged Jesus to leave, because they were so frightened.
When Jesus got into the boat to start back, 38 the man who had been healed begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him off and said, 39 “Go back home and tell everyone how much God has done for you.” The man then went all over town, telling everything that Jesus had done for him.
Terrified of Freedom
He had been raging around the countryside for we-don’t-know-how-long. There were probably screams in the night, bellows in the day that echoed back to the villages nearby. Mothers would have sent their sons the long way around the graveyard with strict instructions not to go near the man. Fathers would have insisted that their daughters travel with a number of her strong older brothers if there was ever any reason for her to be near the area. The people of this region knew this man … and they were terrified of him!
Apparently this area was likely populated mostly by gentiles (not Jewish people). So we don’t know what kind of understanding these people would have had about demons, or what gods they might have worshiped, but they probably didn’t have a lot of understanding of the concept of a Messiah.
But then Jesus shows up. There’s a weird interaction between Jesus and the demons themselves, which I honestly don’t understand. I mean, why wouldn’t Jesus banish them to eternal punishment? Is this a revealing of God’s mercy, even to the demons? I can’t tell you.
What I can tell you is that Jesus does what the demons ask of him, and, seemingly unrepentant, they send the entire herd of pigs into the lake.
What I was completely surprised by, however, was the fact that the villagers, when they came out to find this terror of a man clothed and in his right mind, were seemingly more terrified of this freedom than they had been of the man’s previous enslavement.
They were terrified, it would seem, of the man who had been demon possessed, but perhaps they were even more terrified of the man who had set him free.
What kind of power must it take to set a man free from a herd’s worth of demons?
What kind of power must it take to make demons beg you relent?
And what kind of experience of transformation would it take to make you feel as though you really could summon up the courage to go back to the very people who had witnessed you at your worst with a message of a power big enough to set you free?
- Have you ever been afraid of freedom?
- Have you ever chosen to stay in the broken, the messy, the awful because the fear of the unknown of freedom was far too big?
- Have you ever seen Jesus do something powerful and completely amazing, only to decide that maybe this Jesus stuff is just a bit too much, and you should back off and do something different for a while?
- Have you ever experienced freedom because of Jesus?
- Do you relate with the demon possessed man, wishing you could just stay in Jesus’ presence, yet being sent back to the very people and places where the original pain and brokenness occurred?
- How will you respond to Jesus’ power?